Issue 89 / September - October 2012
Modesty and Effacement
Question: A person who is busy with philanthropy and good services bears the risk of developing self-pride and fall into some personal expectations. How can one keep his or her sincerity while involved in such activism? How can one be safe from losing his or her purity of intention?
Those who devote themselves to philanthropy should clamp tight to this holy creed and glorious ideal of service. They should develop projects for today and tomorrow; and most importantly they should writhe in the worry of communicating it to the rudest, toughest, most stubborn, most intolerant, and most unfaithful of people... Yes, it is this agony that will lead us to the climate of tolerance, and rise up to benignity, then from there to forgiveness, then from there to mercy, and finally to the most prosperous horizon of guidance, in terms of assisting others to eternal bliss.
Those who pioneered in good work in the past have accomplished their mission and have gone, resigning the trust to our generation expecting us to be the architects and thought-laborers of today. Following on, the generations succeeding us will take over the trust and carry it to a higher level. All these shall be realized as a favor of God Almighty bestowed upon our common inclination and the profoundness of our inner world.
On this issue, that we, by any chance, fall in any kind of worldly expectations and base our attitudes on that expectation is nothing else but insincerity. Thoughts like "I am doing all these by myself, I am achieving all those by myself," and the expectationsâ€”no matter how minorâ€”that pass through our minds for a moment, will destroy a side of the construction we are trying to erect and will harm our philanthropical work. Moreover, those expectations can gash into our souls in the course of time, and lead us to egoism and arrogance.
As a result of some of the good work we have done, some people may bear good opinion of us and offer us some positions. I think that no single person who has devoted himself to the good of others should fancy for or prioritize personal gains. Such a fanciful thought is a step in the wrong direction, and if not repented for promptly will be followed by further wrong steps to become a standing mentality. Then, a day may come when that person's world would come crumbling down on them and s/he will lose everything.
An eminent thinker of our age and a hero of sincerity, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi was extraordinarily sensitive in this regard, and he pointed to the fragility of the issue under discussion through statements such as "without my free-will, I've been made to read certain books," "I've been pushed to abandon books," "in full unawareness, I've been guided to the word of God," "I've been made to serve my faith fully out of my cognition." To be a private, ordinary soldier, is something like gold dust for us. And best of all, as a private, we should wait in front of the door of God and should not conceive of any kind of expectations. Yes, it is true that a soldier is sometimes made to perform the task of a colonel; but this is something merely in the discretion of God and we have no say in this decision. Indeed, does Bediuzzaman not express the same concern? "My self is lower than all else, the mission is higher than all," "you are to see yourself as the notorious sinner," "do not suppose that you deserve the honor of all these beauties. As you do not represent them in full, you may only be a zone of reflection." Ripples on the water reflect the image of the sun. What could they reflect if the sun did not exist? Therefore, all the beauties belong to the Beauty of Beauties. Yes, these considerations are of utmost significance. The greater the tasks God Almighty makes us perform, the more our modesty should increase and the further we should stand clear of expectations and claims. To remain in welfare both in this world and the Hereafter, indeed, depends on the soundness of heart:
"Never suppose, the holy one, they will ask for gold or silver,
On the judgment day, they will call but of a sound heart."
Yes, this truth must penetrate deep into our souls. As ordinary as we are, we should not bear expectations exceeding ourselves, whether it is in the name of ourselves or the community we are in. We need to focus on giving our last breath with these thoughts.